Crichton makes what is arguably the most egregious scientific mistake ever made in the central plot point of a techno-thriller. The flak I received from Deniers over a recent post — and new research — inspired me to remind everyone that the best-selling author who has become a hero to Deniers — even bringing his trash talk against U.S. climate scientists to a Senate hearing — doesn’t seem to know the first thing about global warming impacts.
I am not talking about the incessant misrepresentation of the science of global warming throughout his mistake-riddled book, State of Fear (see here and here). No, I am talking about the central plot point in the book’s climax.
One of Crichton’s main goals in the book is to undermine the case that global warming causes abrupt climate change and extreme weather events. In his story, a mainstream environmental group is plotting to create extreme weather events that will cause the deaths of thousands of people timed to coincide with a conference on abrupt climate change in order to trick the public into accepting global warming as truth. In a bizarre coincidence, the book’s climax has the evil environmentalists carefully plan a seismic tsunami-just weeks before an actual tsunami devastated Southeast Asia.
But the truth is stronger than fiction. Seismic tsunamis are caused by earth tremors. They are not caused by global warming! Any climate scientist knows that. This is a stunning blunder by Crichton, calling into question his claim to have any understanding of global warming.
I don’t know what would be worse — if Crichton knew he was making such a mistake but couldn’t be troubled to avoid it or if he didn’t know he was making a mistake.
Before I get a litany of comments saying this book was just meant to be a work of fiction, let’s look at the press release Crichton himself issued in December 2004 (since removed from his website, but the second sentence can be Googled):
STATE OF FEAR raises critical questions about the facts we believe in, without question, on the strength of esteemed experts and the media. Although the story is fiction, Michael Crichton writes from a firm foundation of actual research challenging common assumptions about global warming.
Now what makes this blunder especially timely is a new study that finds that if, as some like NASA’s James Hansen fear, we see significant sea level rise in the future, the extra weight of that water could lead to “volcanic activity, earthquakes, giant submarine landslides and tsunamis.” You can read about the theory here.
The truth is indeed stranger than fiction.